‘Mrs Miggins’ exhibits at Burgh House
PUBLISHED: 13:41 14 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:41 14 February 2020
Blackadder actor Helen Atkinson Wood shows her watercolours at the Hampstead gallery and museum
Helen Atkinson Wood was studying fine art at Ruskin College under Maggi Hambling when she fell in with a talented group at the Oxford University Drama Society.
She found herself performing alongside Rowan Atkinson, Tim McInnerny and Richard Curtis - and heading to the Edinburgh Fringe where she met Ben Elton.
"When I finished doing my degree I pushed off into acting which I loved every minute of," says Atkinson Wood, who was a regular on Radio 4's news spoof Radio Active alongside Angus Deayton, and made a memorable pie shop owner in Elton and Curtis' Regency-set Blackadder III.
She says it was obvious from the start how gifted they all were: "Rowan looked like an acountant but was a natural clown, there's no-one funnier on stage, and when I first met Richard Curtis he was so assured and brilliant and kind and generous, it was no surprise he went on to found the charity Comic Relief.
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"I was caught in the slipstream of this dazzling talent and it was fantastic fun. But a lot of people I've worked with in the world of comedy take it very seriously and want to perfect it. You won't be in a rehearsal room with Rowan Atkinson falling about, it's quite a diligent atmosphere - although doing something like Blackadder when Rik Mayall walked in the room, everyone was on the floor."
It was appearing on Celebrity Watercolour Challenge "I use the word celebrity very loosely" that rekindled her love of painting. "I love jumping in and learning new things and it was a great opportunity to be taught the top tips of watercolour painting. I realised how much I had missed the thrill of mixing paints," says the Islington resident, who appropriately lives in a Georgian house.
The 65-year-old has a second home near Walberswick where she started painting with a local group. Her gorgeous watercolours, which capture the beauty of the Suffolk coastal landscape, are on display this week alongside drawings and pastels at Hampstead's own Georgian gem; Burgh House.
It's a huge departure from her usual acting gigs, says Atkinson Wood
"I've been on tour with Radio Active and I do a lot of voiceovers and some presenting. Painting is a different dynamic to being an actor, more solitary."
She adds: "It's very exciting to be exhibiting at Burgh House. It has a great atmosphere and history, and I'm delighted to say a buttery serving the most delicious pies and cakes."
Helen Atkinson Wood's Picture This runs at Burgh House until February 16. burghhouse.museumssites.com